MACON, Ga. — St. Francis boys basketball earned its second straight Class A-Private state championship and fourth in program history March 4 in Macon with a commanding win over Greenforest, 76-54.
“It’s a great feeling,” St. Francis head coach Drew Catlett said. “The guys put so much hard work in all year, and this is for them. They are going to take this, back-to-back state champs, with them, and no one can take it away from them. I’m just so happy for the players. I will still go back to teaching geometry, taking out the trash and all that, but those guys get to be state champs.”
The Knights never trailed in the title game, led by as much as 25 points and had standout performances throughout the ranks.
Senior and Xavier-commit Down Odom had another stellar performance in his final high school game, notching 27 points with nine rebounds and four assists. Fellow senior Chase Ellis, who was on crutches just two weeks before, battled through to score 14 points. Jusaun Holt, Seth Hubbard and Jordan Brown also scored in double digits.
The Knights had 44 points in the paint and 14 off fast breaks.
St. Francis set the tone early by rocketing to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter, including six points from Odom in the opening two minutes.
Greenforest cut into the lead with a run of their own, but still trailed by eight at the end of the quarter. That was the closest they would come in the game.
St. Francis built its lead to double digits midway through the second and never looked back.
Greenforest came out of the half running a backcourt trap defense, and while the Eagles forced a few turnovers early in the third, Catlett said the press allowed the Knights to use their speed.
St. Francis outscored the Eagles 22-17 in the third and 20-18 in the final period to clinch the win.
“We always preach being a good teammate, share the ball and make the extra pass, and all those things came together on the court tonight,” Catlett said. “You look at a guy like Odom, who is one of the top players in Georgia, and he can score 26 or 28 points, but he will also get seven or eight assists. He is a willing passer and gets everyone involved, and that feeds everyone else.”
Odom is a member of the 2020 senior class that just became the winningest in St. Francis’ storied history. Over the past four years, Odom, Ellis, Grey Schiwitz, Hunter Jones and Jai Smith have racked up a staggering 109-17 record with two state titles, two Region 6-A championships and a state runner-up finish.
“It’s special to see the senior class go out this way. They are great kids and have good character,” Catlett said. “They showed a lot of dedication, and most importantly, they are great teammates. We bring these younger guys in and they mold them into great teammates who want to win for the name on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back.”
The Knights remained the top-ranked Class A-Private program throughout the year and compiled a 29-3 overall record this season against some of the state’s top teams. Catlett said wins over Class 6A’s Langston Hughes, Class 3A powerhouse Pace Academy and Archer of Class 7A stick out in his mind — as did the team’s three losses.
“We had a tough game with Wheeler, and we got beat by two really good, nationally-ranked teams in the Beach Ball Classic, but those kind of experiences help you,” he said. “Every season will have its ups and downs, and you have to handle it and fight through, and every year we have the challenge to have the kids stay focused and stay together. They did that all throughout the year.”